The beneficial role of noise in promoting species coexistence and preventing extinction has been recognized in theoretical ecology, but previous studies were mostly concerned with low-dimensional systems. We investigate the interplay between noise and nonlinear dynamics in real-world complex mutualistic networks with a focus on species recovery in the aftermath of a tipping point. Particularly, as a critical parameter such as the mutualistic interaction strength passes through a tipping point, the system collapses and approaches an extinction state through a dramatic reduction in the species populations to near-zero values. We demonstrate the striking effect of noise: When the direction of parameter change is reversed through the tipping point, noise enables species recovery which otherwise would not be possible. We uncover an algebraic scaling law between the noise amplitude and the parameter distance from the tipping point to the recovery point and provide a physical understanding through analyzing the nonlinear dynamics based on an effective, reduced-dimension model. Noise, in the form of small population fluctuations, can thus play a positive role in protecting high-dimensional, complex ecological networks.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
- Statistics and Probability
- Condensed Matter Physics